An interesting story surfaced recently about an interaction former U.S. Attorney General William Barr had with one of his employees during the Trump administration where he made an “f-bomb” laden threat to fire the employee after he had a conversation about department matters with Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz before the department itself.
According to Politico, the story revolves around Larry Keefe, a former law partner of Gaetz’s at the firm Keefe, Anchors & Gordon whom Trump had nominated as U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Florida. As Joe Biden was being nominated as the Democrat choice for POTUS, Keefe looked into opening an investigation on voter fraud in his state.
Keefe faced a hurdle into his investigation in the form of the Public Integrity Section at the Justice Department’s headquarters who thought the statewide scope of the proposal was too broad. Keefe went to Gaetz and told him of the resistance he was facing.
“Keefe did not share with me any details of any investigative work, nor would he,” Gaetz told Politico. “We were having a broad discussion about legal doctrine related to jurisdiction and venue.”
Gaetz said that their conversation was primarily about whether U.S. attorneys whose districts included state capital cities could investigate voter fraud in parts of the state outside their districts, according to Politico:
Gaetz described Keefe’s view of the law this way: Since presidential electors are certified in state capital cities, any harm related to their fraudulent certification would be caused there — meaning the U.S. attorneys whose districts included those cities should have the authority to investigate those crimes.
After this conversation happened, Gaetz wound up in a meeting in the Oval Office with Trump and Trump brought up his views about mail-in voting being filthy with fraud. This prompted Gaetz to bring up Keefe’s legal theory.
“I said to him that an appreciation for the Keefe position on venue would give good U.S. attorneys in every capital city the necessary jurisdiction to root out fraud,” Gaetz said. “I also shared with President Trump that Keefe had faced substantial resistance from the Department of Justice.”
Trump then instructed White House counsel Pat Cipollone to tell Barr that he liked Keefe’s approach, but when Barr learned about the conversation Keefe had with Gaetz, he became very angry and called up Keefe with a threat where the words weren’t remotely minced.
“If I ever hear of you talking to Gaetz or any other congressman again about business before the Department, I am going to f**king fire your ass,” Barr said according to people familiar with the call.
Gaetz told Politico he wasn’t aware that conversation had taken place.
“I am unaware of any discussion Barr had with Keefe,” he said, “but I did get a message from Keefe subsequent to my meeting in the Oval wherein Keefe said he was not going to be able to discuss these matters with me, and I got the sense that the politics of the Department of Justice were such that they did not want U.S. attorneys looking for election fraud in this type of very proactive way.”
Neither anyone from the DOJ, Trump, or Barr camps agreed to give a comment about the story.
To be clear, there’s likely going to be some spin on this story that makes it seem like Barr was angry that Keefe wanted to look into voter fraud in the state of Florida, but it seems more like Barr was angry that department matters this important were discussed with people outside of it first.